Luminescent nanoparticles as trackers for imaging of flows and sensing phenomena in microchannels

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Chemistry


Fluorescence imaging has become an increasingly appealing technique for detection because it is highly sensitive as well as non-invasive and non-destructive, providing good temporal resolution for detection of fast events. One of the challenges in optical imaging is to increase spatial resolution; this would require decrease in probe size combined with the ability to detect the individual fluorescent probes. In this proposal, through an interdisciplinary approach, we aim to develop novel Luminescent Nanosized tracking probes (LNt), study the images of these single particles in static and flow conditions and use the LNt for resolving velocity and concentration profiles in micron sized channels (the latter using sensing at the nanoparticle level). The LNt will be prepared by the attachment of lanthanide and ruthenium luminescent complexes on gold and platinum nanoparticles. These particles will luminesce in the visible and near infra-red providing different colours for detection and their images will be obtained together with spectral information of each nanoparticle, which will allow colour recognition. We will apply the LNt to investigate flow and reactive systems with micron sized features. These studies will provide a breakthrough in the analysis of miniaturized chemical and biological systems because they will enable simultaneous velocity and concentration measurements with very high spatial resolution that will allow submicron scale phenomena to be resolved The luminescent properties of LNt are defined by the photophysical properties of the molecular label the particles are coated with. The lanthanide light emission is far from the light excitation wavelength, which avoids any interference of scattering light. Emission in infra red is also possible which is transparent to skin and for blood flow this is an advantage as several blood pigments absorb the visible radiation emitted from common lumophores. The nanoparticles developed will be used to investigate the complex sub-micron scale flows that can appear due to Marangoni phenomena during CO2 absorption in amine solutions in micro-chemical units. The feasibility of using the LNt to monitor blood flows will also be evaluated. LNt can be tailored-made for sensing different molecules, which gives them a built-in ability to sense specific chemical species and be uniquely used for both concentration and velocity measurements. Apart from lanthanides we will also be using ruthenium bipyridyl luminescent complexes which are attractive because their luminescence is sensitive to the presence of oxygen and oxygen concentration. Velocity and concentration profile measurements will be demonstrated for microprocesses using lanthanide and ruthenium LNt that can sense small molecules (aromatic acids) and oxygen respectively. The proof of principle of the application of LNt for flow velocity and concentration measurements had been demonstrated in a recently completed Discipline Hopping project between Chemistry and Chemical Engineering awarded to the two Principal Investigators.


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Berwick MR (2014) De novo design of Ln(III) coiled coils for imaging applications. in Journal of the American Chemical Society

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Davies A (2012) pH-controlled delivery of luminescent europium coated nanoparticles into platelets. in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Lewis D (2014) Lanthanide-coated gold nanoparticles for biomedical applications in Coordination Chemistry Reviews

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Pikramenou Z (2014) Other nanoparticles: general discussion. in Faraday discussions

Description We developed novel luminescent nanosized tracking probes based on gold and silica nanoparticles. These nanoparticles were imaged in Brownian motion and in different flow conditions. We studied the images of these single particles and used them for resolving velocity profiles in micron sized channels (the latter using sensing at the nanoparticle level). We found that the silica nanoparticles were more versatile for the development of different sizes that facilitated detection in PIV conditions. We used an interdisciplinary approach through chemistry and chemical engineering collaboration to develop the nanoparticles and study them in flow conditions in different experimental set-ups.
Exploitation Route Imaging of particles at the nanoscale can find several applications in healthcare for the preparation of detection nanodevices using flow, sensors, monitoring of microreactor efficiency.
Sectors Chemicals,Environment,Healthcare

Description Press release of two publications reached several companies and the public -science news, dentists today website and also newspapers in Greece, India
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Societal

Description Research Fellowship
Amount £45,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Leverhulme Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2012 
End 09/2014
Description Chemical Engineering-UCL 
Organisation London College (UCK)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Preparation of luminescent nanoparticles, spectroscopic analysis and imaging.
Collaborator Contribution Flow experiments in different conditions, measurements and analysis of flows.
Impact Research collaboration which resulted to new findings in advancing the research area with common publications and collaborative interdisciplinary grant proposals
Start Year 2006
Description The present invention relates to a method for preparing a composition comprising nanoparticles of a noble metal functionalised with at least one type of metal complex and surfactant. The method comprises providing a first solution comprising nanoparticles and surfactant, and a second solution comprising a first type of metal complex, and adding the second solution to the first solution. Each nanoparticle has a loading of at least 500 and the method permits independent control of particle size and loading and enables large particles with high loading to be reproduced without agglomeration. 
IP Reference WO2013004989 
Protection Patent granted
Year Protection Granted 2013
Licensed Commercial In Confidence
Impact New properties of metal nanoparticles have been recorded and new collaborations have been initiated in fields that range from healthcare to new materials.
Description Nanoparticles in dentistry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Business from Switzerland , China and India contacted us at the University for obtaining more information about the project. A newspaper in Greece pubished an article "No more pain" for using the particles we presented in the manuscript in teeth
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Press release of publication in Nanomedicine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Two companies and one clinician have contacted us for taking the research further
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018